April 25, 2014

Legislative Update: February 8

— The man who was responsible for overseeing computer networks at the state Department of Revenue said he was flabbergasted that employees in his division did not spot evidence of a hacker who eventually compromised the network and accessed more than 3.8 million Social Security numbers. Former Chief Information Officer Mike Garon told a House panel Thursday he was shocked to think that staffers responsible for monitoring the system did not notice the illegal activity for nearly two months. He said such a massive transfer of data should have been noticed within 48 hours. Garon, who resigned before the breach was eventually discovered, also said he would accept blame if it could be shown that the agency’s security procedures were faulty.



— Speaking of the Department of Revenue breach, Governor Nikki Haley’s name was dropped from a class-action lawsuit seeking damages from the attack Thursday. The agency’s former director also saw his name dismissed. But the state circuit judge said he needed more time to decide whether or not to dismiss the entire lawsuit. Former State Sen. John Hawkins filed the suit last year, accusing state agencies of failing to protect taxpayers and keeping the breach secret for weeks.

— A group of lawmakers who led the Senate’s investigation into the breach has now come up with legislation in response to the attack. The bill would provide affected South Carolinians with ten years of free credit monitoring and would also create a new Department of Information Security that reports to the governor. The bill’s lead sponsor Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) called it an early draft that would jumpstart debate.

— After weeks of hearings, legislators in a House panel advanced a bill that tries to make it easier for the public to access government documents. The State newspaper reports that the bill would amend the Freedom of Information Act – the law regulating public records – to stop excessive fees charged against those who are seeking documents. It would also ensure those requests are filled in a timely manner. As a compromise, supporters agreed to give small governments more time and the ability to cover their costs of fulfilling the requests. It now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.

— Senators also advanced Gov. Nikki Haley’s choice to head the Department of Insurance after three weeks of debate— unusual for the relatively low-key position. Senators had heard concerns about Ray Farmer’s qualifications for the post. Farmer is a former lobbyist for the industry. His nomination now heads to the full Senate.

— Gov. Haley on Thursday touted a decision by her administration to shift more Medicaid funds to help reimburse rural hospitals. Haley first announced the Rural Hospital Transformation initiative during her State of the State address last month. The initiative fully reimburses the cost to treat uninsured patients at 19 struggling rural hospitals around the state. However, Democrats and the South Carolina Hospital Association say Haley could offer more help to those hospitals by agreeing to accept Medicaid expansion funds.